“You all keep talking about the city like it’s their prison. It’s not. It’s their kingdom.“
People across the globe have been calling for filmmaker Zack Snyder to have complete creative control over his projects, and now he has that, does it really mean anything big for the industry?
The zombie sub-genre has been oversaturated for a while now, and it usually takes something special to be taken notice of, the phenomenon that is The Walking Dead, like Game of Thrones, got so big it became a household name even to those that had never watched an episode, the show became synonymous with zombies, and as it raised the horror icon up from it’s humble but grand beginnings in George A. Romero‘s Night of the Living Dead, it also dragged the Zombie name through mud (and blood, guts and bile), because let’s be honest, if you can say you’re still watching the show then you can proudly say you’re dedicated to television (or you have nothing better to watch). Army of the Dead comes hot on the heels of Snyder’s Director’s Cut of the divisive and now controversial Justice League, and with Snyder hyping up his cast, budget, runtime and lack of restrictions from Netflix, it really did look like it would be the spark to reignite the stale sub-genre.
In true Snyder fashion, the first thing to note is Army of the Dead‘s runtime, at almost 2½ hours long, it’s not unmanageable at all, but it could (and should) be an hour or so shorter, with way too much time spent on fleshing out things that you want to brush over anyway for lack of interest, or that you just want to ignore altogether because they’re either unnecessary or simply frustrating. None of the characters need to be given backstories to make them interesting, they’re in an extremely stressful and physically demanding life-or-death situation with people they aren’t used to dealing with, the room for development is right there, and there’s plenty of it. The characters are all very two-dimensional, and in an action-centric, spectacle-fuelled film like this, that’s perfectly okay, but when Snyder tries to push as much baggage as he can onto Dave Bautista‘s stoic lead it just becomes yawn-inducing, he’s perhaps one of the least charismatic actors working in Hollywood right now, like if someone took away all of Dwayne Johnson’s charm and just left him his acting abilities- you wouldn’t be left with much. But again, Army of the Dead doesn’t need Bautista‘s character to really do a lot, and for what it’s worth, this might be the best performance he’s given, but Snyder isn’t a director who brings the best out of his actors, he’s a director who’s consumed by his visuals and physical storytelling.
Army of the Dead, if anything, does have some nice cinematography, I wanted to see so much more of the ‘zombie tiger’, it was so beautifully shot and designed with such grotesque intricacy, and beyond undead cats, the set pieces and hordes of undead all looked pretty great, I didn’t even come close to noticing that Tig Notaro filmed all of her scenes separately from the rest of the cast and was digitally inserted in, but like everything with Snyder, the film’s monotonous aesthetic loses its novelty so quickly, there were so many scenes that looked no different from each other that if you went and made yourself a cup of tea with the film still playing you wouldn’t be lost at all when you came back.
I don’t understand why this film leans so much on tropes of the two sub-genres it’s pushing together whilst at the same time acting like it’s above all the clichés. Almost everything about Army of the Dead feels like a contradiction, I would end this by saying if you don’t want to put too much effort in, it’s a fine zombie flick, but 148 minutes of something you can’t ever fully invest in feels like a lot more effort than it should be.
Army of the Dead is currently available to stream on Netflix.
Action, Thriller | USA, 2019 | 18 | Netflix Original | Dir.Zack Snyder | Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Ana de la Reguera, Matthias Schweighöfer, Garret Dillahunt, Tig Notaro, Omari Hardwick, Nora Arnezeder